Xarabank Review (08.02) – Education

Rough notes from Xarabank – while watching streaming.

1. Mario Mallia and Louis Galea – a proper pre-electoral discussion. Discussing professionally entrance exams and the future. You can see a minister and a potential junior minister collaborating with proper aims.

2. Karm Abela (Labour) – fluffing his way about “reception class”. Notwithstanding Peppi’s pressure, the Labour candidate (potential future minister) avoids the question from start to end. Labour Manifesto talks about “inwettqu” – putting into place something without wanting to explain what it is he wants to put into place. Dak li inwieghdu inwettqu – what they promise is a box of enigmas.

3.  Is reception class an extra year? No answer. So long as they can mudsling about gonzipn and play the crowd they do not feel obliged to answer concretely. Intellectual engagement?

Waqfa Qasira: Galea 1 – Mallia 1 – Abela 0 (risking minus)

4. Janice Chetcuti (Zejtun PN candidate) Interesting. Found it difficult to criticise without throwing in spin like “arroganti”.With a bit of calm and no need for  insult she might have got a stronger message through.

5. Abela “Partiggjan. Giddieb. Gonzipn”. Lovely.

6. Everyone agrees with Mario. Abela, Galea… Mario for education minister?

(Discussion is interesting and Peppi manages not to intervene much. Not much partisan talk until now, barring the MLP jibes at Gonzipn. Good discussion. Allows voter with education priorities to assess manifestos).

7. Caroline (PN cadidate) Asks if MLP’s only suggestion is “reception school”. Lapses into the Labour part regarding numerus clausus, 20 punt etc. Abela claims loudly “It’s not true”. Someone hand Abela a history book.  Caroline then shifts to describe the wonderful state of our education. You expect her to stand up and start singing “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Education.” Back to the drawing book.

8.  AN guy finally speaks. His benchmark is the UK Tory party. Agrees with spirit of Labour proposal. Concentrates on literacy and numeracy skills. Too many bricks and mortar and buildings. We need to concentrate on subjects.

9. Mario Mallia. Agrees that education is not best discussed pre-election. Agrees we have a problem with literacy and that we need an early intervention. Clarification comment: Electoral obligations should not force one party to throw away a proposal of another party. Tells PN to consider the “reception class” proposal. Tells MLP that just throwing an idea without explaining and discussing it in context is just as bad. Personal opinion: the guy rocks. Until now he wins my vote.

Another pause. Galea 1 – Mallia 3 . Abela 0. (yes, I am biased. Biased by the content of the discussion.)

Education discussion over.

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16 responses to “Xarabank Review (08.02) – Education

  1. Note how the MLP spokesperson talks about 20 years of PN rule. I guess 96-98 was actually just a nightmare.

  2. David Friggieri

    Public Service Announcement on The Mother of All Blogs:

    Highly recommended in these tense times of electoral hysteria, gonzipn, the only way up fredu, xara-agoraelettorale, need for change:

    Dino Risi’s 1963 masterpiece I Mostri: http://www.italica.rai.it/cinema/film/mostri.htm

    I mostri di Dino Risi è un mosaico cinico, fedele e divertito di quella Italia che alla metà degli anni sessanta esce dal miracolo economico e si trova ad affrontare un futuro diverso, industrializzato e complesso nel quale sono mutati i valori di riferimento e i codici di comportamento comuni. Nel film vengono con dovizia messi a nudo quelli che sono i vizi e le contraddizioni nascenti di un paese in via di veloce trasformazione, colti in ambiti diversissimi: dalla famiglia alla cultura, dalla giustizia alla educazione stradale, dallo sport al sesso, per finire alla religione e alla amicizia (source wikipedia)

  3. Following the education discussion, I’m shocked that there isn’t a mass exodus of MLP voters to AD/PN. We really do have major problems in the education sector if people are convinced by non-answers and childish taunts like ‘gonzipn’ and ‘wara ghoxrin sena’. The Caroline PN character was pretty depressing too. We need more parties in Parliament to squeeze out the mediocrity. That being said, the prospect of the MLP candidates as MPs, let alone Ministers is really scary. Will PN please include changing the electoral system in their manifesto?

    On the substance, if there was any: the reception class is a concept. Reminds me of the abolition of VAT and the subsequent CET mess.

    On the form: does Peppi have any idea how to run a discussion and give more or less equal to all members of a panel? Does he have any idea how to elicit an answer or make it clear that an answer is not being given? And where is the Broadcasting Authority in all this?

    And finally, I’m not quite convinced by your rating system. The Minister, dubbed ‘caretaker Minister’ by the Labour children on the panel, was the only person who came close to articulating substance. The AD spokesperson was articulate and intelligent but he did not muscle in with much substance.

  4. Pingback: The Sunday Papers « j’accuse

  5. Justin, why are you surprised that there isn’t a mass exodus of MLP voters? In 1987, the Nationalist Party won with a very slim majority – after all that violence, corrupt, economic depression, and well, I don’t need to go through the list. Then again in 1992, more than 45% of electors voted to bring KARMENU MIFSUD BONNICI BACK AGAIN when we had had peace and quiet and some jobs and money for five years. I have to conclude that for these people, that core 45% that just doesn’t shift though people die and new ones are born, political parties are like football teams and bandclubs: you pick one for no particular reason and then you wave its banner and hope it wins.

    The Labour Party has lost practically all of its rational supporters, or those with initiative and drive (and that’s just the supporters). For years there has not been any dignity in supporting Labour, as there was in Boffa’s time. The party is just an embarrassment. The Nationalists tend to be most at risk of losing the support of electors – to new parties or grudge parties or whatever – because its voter profile is a ‘thinking person’, and people who think question things, expect more, challenge their politicians to deliver or else.

    Lots of people are now blaming ‘the government’, ‘the Nationalist Party’ or ‘the electoral system’ for the tension created at election time because of the risk of a Labour victory. But can’t they see that the REAL problem is the fact that Labour is an utter mess, always chooses a bad leader (and someone who either is or who presents himself as a single man – having a woman around to tick you off for stupidity in the evening is important) and is uncommitted to reforming itself from the roots. If the fools had snatched the opportunity to have George Abela as a leader – somebody sane, well-balanced and au fait with business, who is trusted and respected by all – they would be in clover. Sorry, WE would be in clover. The reason there is always such a panic at elections, with business grinding to a halt (it’s already slowed down to nothing this week) is because of the very prospect of – as you say – having those inane and inept individuals as ministers running things. Instead of sending us running for the hills, it sends us running to vote Nationalist – though I have to say that I am one of those who votes positively for the Nationalists because they’ve done such amazing things for the economy. If only I were 20 today. The truth is that the way to have more parties in parliament is not a reform of the electoral system, but a reform of the Labour Party. It is only when people stop being afraid, with great justification, of having a Labour government that they will vote for third parties. They will even vote Labour. The mistake AD has made is to constantly criticise the government to ease away support from the Nationalist Party, when it should have been attacking Labour constantly and repeatedly for its failure to clean up its act. Worse still, AD constantly speaks about MLPN, putting the two parties – which are very different in terms of track record, ability and attitude – in the same basket. In fact, to me this is one of the most off-putting things about AD: the failure to distinguish, tactically rather than through conviction, between the two parties and their track record. Please don’t tell me that this government is no better than Sant’s was, or that Sant and Gonzi are the same man.

  6. …a bad leader (and someone who either is or who presents himself as a single man – having a woman around to tick you off for stupidity in the evening is important)…

    A single man, and seperated too, just like me. Thank you Daphne for having relegated me to the dustbin of society. I have already been deemed immature because I vote AD (incidentally I have voted AD all my life), and because I have never changed a nappy or pushed a pram.

    I also had a business, but it went belly-up, in a way, so that pushes me down your evolutionary ladder even further.

    Thank you for being so respectful of difference and variety. I only beg you not to dig up my separation and annulment records and gloat on them lpublicly ike you did with Sant.

    What consoles me is that at least I don’t wear a wig. It may have qualified me for some Pol Pot re-eductaion at Dar Centrali.

  7. Daphne, I suppose ‘shocked’ was the wrong word – some melodrama on my part there. That being said, I do know several intelligent people who vote for Labour. I suppose intelligent MLP voters are better described as intelligent people who vote tribally for Labour – intelligence and the act of voting exist in different realms. Your football analogy is spot on.

    I do agree that AD have made many tactical errors; that being said I don’t think that they put Gonzi and Sant in the same basket and they have in fact been quite closely aligned with PN’s direction on the major issues. That being said, they do tend to aim their guns at PN rather than Labour, which is natural given that PN has been in government for ten (not twenty) years. But is unjustified in many ways because the choice between one and the other is not a matter of the lesser of two evils, but accepting the evils that come with the better option. You make an important point that we should heed here: PN has done a great deal of good and demonizing the party is unfair. A movement for multi-party governance is as good place as any to start thinking in shades of grey.

  8. David Friggieri

    I largely agree with Daphne’s take on things here. What she calls Labour’s need to ‘reform itself from the roots’, I have called a ‘revolution’. This would be the best ‘Bidla’ anyone could hope for. It would radically change the face of Maltese politics and, with the right people in place, would represent the cultural change which Malta needs so badly.

    But I part ways with Daphne on one important point and it is crucial.

    Daphne describes PN folk as ‘thinking people’, implying, inevitably, that MLP voters are ‘blockheads’ (she calls them ‘fools’). While I’d agree that core Labour voters (45% of the voting population – huge, and terrifying, I agree) might not be the most discerning category of individuals, is the situation radically diffrent on the PN side? I’m not convinced. Both parties appear to rely on a 45% guaranteed base of ‘football fans’ which leaves us with 10% of ‘thinkers’. Random conversations with friends and aquaintances over the past 15 years or so point to the fact that, for a host of reasons, these ‘thinkers’ are more or less evenly divided into the blue and red camps, some switching allegiance depending on circumstances (like the prospect of losing out on EU membership).

    In a system which Daphne has described as ‘winner takes all’, it’s not difficult to see that even the most intellectually advanced ‘thinker’ will be forced to take sides. For ‘winner takes all’ implies that being stranded somewhere in no man’s land is only an option for the most idealistic among us.

    My analysis is that Labour’s thinkers have been waiting patiently and hungrily for a change in fortune (20 years is a long, long time) while the PN has spawned a category of thinker (perhaps unlinked to the central PN power base) which is now aspiring for something better.

    AD is attractive to the no-man’s land individuals and to ‘unlinked’ Nationalists.

    Labourites can’t aford such luxuries. In ‘Winner Takes All Land’, they’ve been deprived of the goodies for too long.

  9. Daphne’s description of Labour folk as an idiotic rabble is the puerile mythical representation which people like Claire Bonello, Anton and myself inherited during the 80’s. Slimizi (though just a stone’s throw from Lazy Corner), private schooled, saw our fair share of PN meetings, spoke English and code-switched, had our pepe’ friends but played football with the urchins whose dad’s had ominous nicknames and the Balluta abbatini. I heard this representation at school, but fortunately there were relatives of mine who were as Labour as can be, but who, to retain the analogy, never pelted stones or broke in Curias, detested country and line dancing, and had Union Club and Marsa memberships, and a nice amonunt of honest money.

    An intelligent women like Daphne knows these things. She’s read, studied, most of all lived (hell, she’s got a business, kids and a loving husband, all wrapped in a Bidnija villa with room for a pony), and she’s capable of discernment and subtlety. But as a professional spin-doctor (no harm in that), she tries to foist this false view on a readership she assumes will be terrified of the proletarian retribution should Labour be elected. Nevertheless, to keep with the stereotypes, the infamous chattering classes consist not only of God-fearing middle aged ladies who’d vote for Pippo Psaila, but also of a large variety of people who have thankfully escaped the class caricature and are not duped by it.

    The link I am posting below could not have come at a better time.

  10. Tells PN to consider the “reception class” proposal. Tells MLP that just throwing an idea without explaining and discussing it in context is just as bad.

    You’ve got to love Mario Mallia. I’m reminded of a Xarabank episode. The Labour chap was saying cost of living has gone up a lot; the Nationalist chap was saying no it hasn’t. Peppi turned to Mario: “Mario, what do you think? Has cost of living gone up or not?”. To which Mario replied “I do not know” although we all suspected he just wanted to sit on the fence.

    Reminds me of Tevye, the protagonist in “Fiddler on the roof”. An old man says “We must stick to traditions”. Tevye replies “You are right”. A young man says “But we must move with the times and change”. And Tevy replies “You are right”. A third man says to Tevye “A man says we musn’t change and you tell him you’re right. Another man says we must move with the times and you tell him he’s right. Aren’t you contradicting yourself?”.

    “You know” replies Tevye. “You are right too”.

  11. Thanks Mark for that!!

  12. Mario Mallia’s contribution in Xarabank’s education discussion was a clear example of an unbiased third voice injecting some common sense in a zero-sum game political arena. To be fair, Galea had his good moments too. Abela… cannot think of any other word than abysmal.

  13. Anyone watch Sant’s press conference this morning? It seems the abortion issue is firmly back on the agenda, with PBS reporter asking him how he can possibly resist the pressure to sign Gift of Life’s petition when so many of his own party’s MPs have already signed.

    Sant replied that his party is against abortion on principle, but that “discussions are under way” re the consitutional amendment. All very worrying if you ask me, but then it seems that these issues are suddenly no longer important to certain people… even the ones who seemed to feel so strongly about the constitutional amendment up until a few months ago. Suddenly the only important thing is to make damn sure the religious right wins the election at all costs, and even then just because of what looks to me a whole lot like personal prejudice and spite.

    “At all costs” being the operative expression in the above sentence, by the way. My question to all those who would define themselves as liberals is: how much will you be willing to pay just to keep Sant out forever? We are being asked to support a party which is anti-divorce, pro-hunting, and which would not hesitate to use the constitution as a weapon to bludgeon minorities out of existence… and incredibly, while everybody and his dog has painted apocalytpic scenarios of what would happen if Labour won, nobody has even given a moment’s thought to the inevitable consequences of a nationalist victory. Including the constitutional amendment that nobody cares about anymore.

    I still do, of course; But then again that only means I’m stupid and immature.

  14. The above is an example why I consider Xarabank to be Malta’s discussion-tool nightmare that has seriously screwed Malta’s ability to have a worthwhile debate on anything.

    Debate needs time to develop argumentation that is based on facts – a laborious mostly academic exercise that bores pants off people as much as thinner scrapes paint off surfaces.

    A prime time programme needs constant flipping of images, five-second minus shots move move move…

    You can therefore only go on Xarabank armed with your cleverly manicured bottom-line quips – Reception Class = repeater class cottoned in kemm inhobbu it-tfal taghna etc- pure marketing brilliance etc etc. forget the development of any kind of argumentation, just not prime-time material.

    To me Abela came across as being oblivious to all this and was dolefully unprepared. He was a total sucker who sat in the limelight having no inkling of the way he divested himself, and was divested, of credibility – he had to run embarrassingly behind disastrous bottom-line cliché’ shields/quips like Partiggjan. Giddieb. Gonzipn

    A few days before the 8th, I had occasion to discuss the reception class concept with a good professor friend of mine who is totally for the introduction of a reception class:

    1. Malta’s illiteracy rate is very high (is it 13%? do not recall the exact figure just that it is high, very high)

    2. This does not tell the whole story. What are the literacy standards enjoyed by the remaining 87?% ?

    3. Why is this the case?

    To put it simply, humans have a preference how to absorb information – and how to subsequently understand the information so absorbed – There are those who prefer formal methods (those who principally have very good memories) and there are those who prefer informal methods (those who need to understand each step of the way before they are ready to absorb the next morsel of information).

    Now our traditional method of teaching caters for the formal type and the informalists need to grapple from day one with the uphill struggle to gather information from the sole formal trough. They have no problem with becoming literate yet they need to understand all input through their own initiative with little help from the class.

    Yet when Kindergarten came along, a strange thing happened. Kindergartens let children free allowing them to ‘learn’ in an informal environment.

    The result? When kids came to formal stage one, the formality came as a drastic shock and many kids of both the formal and informal inkling struggled through their formal class learning days. Illiteracy shot up.

    So how did other education systems deal with this problem?

    They realized that they had to insert a reception class that eased the kids from an informal to a formal method of digesting info. This class was able to reinstate high literacy results.

    So is reception class adding on an extra year? It should not but there is no straight forward yes/no answer. It depends on factors like date of birth etc etc etc …oh stop it please!

    You can only go on Xarabank with your cleverly manicured bottom-line quips – Reception Class – repeater class – pure marketing brilliance etc etc. forget the development of any kind of argumentation, just not prime-time material.

    As i understand matters, labour just did not have the bottom-line quips to the complicated reception-class issue … Which is not the issue why I write here. The issue is – where can we maltese ongoingly discuss the merits and demerits of reception class or any other issue of consequence?

  15. On blogs…though it’s a pity that no one claps here.

  16. You could be right there Jon for at least 4 years x months in between elections 🙂 Yet so many blogs stay (or have so far stayed) in spin mode and so there are blogs and blogs … we need to perhaps find easy names to distinguish errrr win blogs vs spin blogs 😦

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